Family-Centered Treatment

Relationships with family and children play an important role in substance use disorder treatment and recovery. The majority of adults entering treatment have children, and these children are at high risk of child abuse and neglect, developmental problems, and adolescent substance misuse. Therapeutic services for the entire family and enhanced parenting knowledge improve treatment, recovery, and well-being outcomes for these families. When whole families are treated, outcomes for each individual member improve.

Comprehensive family-centered treatment addresses the biopsychosocial-spiritual nature of substance use disorders as they affect the entire family. Family-centered treatment is most effective when it is:

  • Based on the unique needs and resources of individual families;
  • Comprehensive and culturally responsive;
  • Gender and age responsive;
  • Dynamic to address complex, evolving family needs;
  • Supportive of the creation of healthy family systems and
  • Coordinated across multiple systems

Contact us at ncsacw@cffutures.org or 1(866) 493-2758 to explore how infusing family-centered treatment practices in your community can help families thrive.

Policy and Practice Resources

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  • Understanding Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Your Community: A Draft Discussion Guide for Child Welfare and Court Professionals to Identify the Best Treatment Fit for Families (PDF 385 KB)
    National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, 2017

    This discussion guide is designed to help child welfare and court professionals increase their knowledge and capacity to better meet the needs of families with substance use disorders. It provides an overview of the substance use disorder treatment process and principles of effective treatment, as well as an overview of family-centered care. This guide also offers a list of discussion questions that professionals can use to begin an ongoing dialogue with community treatment providers about their operations and services—specifically those for families involved with child welfare and the court. These questions will help professionals gain a better understanding of the available treatment in the community and how it may (or may not) align with their clients' needs.
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  • Funding Family-Centered Treatment for Women (PDF 2 MB)
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2008

    This document assists treatment providers and state substance abuse agencies to identify and access potential sources of funding for comprehensive family-centered treatment.
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  • Transitioning to a Family Centered Approach: Best Practices and Lessons Learned from Three Adult Drug Courts (PDF 979 KB)
    Children and Family Futures and National Drug Court Institute, 2017

    This case study looks at three adult drug courts (ADCs) that are in the process of transitioning from a traditional ADC to one that has expanded services to families and children of program participants. The purpose of this case study was to obtain information about the ADC core team members’ experiences and perceptions of the ADC processes as well as the programs’ successes and challenges as they increased their services to address the needs of children and families. The case studies found 10 key strategies for implementing a family-focused approach.
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  • TIP 39: Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015 (revised)

    This Treatment Improvement Protocol provides information about family therapy for substance abuse treatment providers and offers information about substance abuse treatment to family therapists. It focuses on the stages of motivation, treatment, and recovery, and covers clinical decision-making, supervision, cultural considerations, funding, and research.

Related Webinars

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  • The Nurturing Program for Families in Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery (PDF 4.7 MB)
    National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, 2014

    This webinar discusses practical issues related to the implementation of the Nurturing Program for Families in Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery. The Nurturing Program for Families in Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery curriculum was first published in 1995 and was adapted from the Nurturing Program for Parents and Children Birth to 5 Years to address the specific needs of families affected by parental substance abuse. The curriculum focuses on the effects of substance abuse on families, parenting, and the parent-child relationship.

State and Local Examples

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  • Key Lessons for Implementing a Family-Centered Approach (PDF 4.7 MB)
    Children and Family Futures, 2017

    The Prevention and Family Recovery (PFR) initiative, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Duke Endowment, seeks to advance the capacity of family drug courts to provide more comprehensive family-centered care to children, parents, and families affected by substance use disorders. PFR is working with eight established FDCs across the country to strengthen their parenting and children’s services for vulnerable families. In the first round of PFR, four geographically and culturally diverse FDC grantees implemented different evidence-based interventions in varying county and state sociopolitical contexts. The grantees’ journeys provide valuable insights about the practice and policy changes needed for an FDC to shift from being an independent program within the court to an integrated cross-systems, family-centered collaborative.

Additional Resources

  • Family-Centered Substance Use Disorder Treatment
    Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2017

    The resources on this page highlight different strategies for providing family-centered treatment and the effect of this approach on parental completion of substance use disorder treatment programs and overall family well-being.
  • Family-Centered Practice
    Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2017

    The resources on this page address key elements of family-centered practice and provide overarching strategies for family-centered casework practice across child welfare service systems that focus on strengths, engage families and involve them in decision-making, advocate for improving families' conditions, and engage communities to support families. Strategies for creating a family-centered agency culture are also addressed.
  • Strengthening the Parent-Child Attachment in Families Affected by Substance Use (Webinar)
    National Abandoned Infant Assistance Resource Center, 2015

    This webinar explores how young children are impacted by prenatal substance exposure. In this exploration, information is provided on how to work with the parent-child dyad to forge a strong attachment and mitigate symptoms of parental substance use. The principles of Child-Parent Psychotherapy are examined. Additionally, this webinar provides information on the use of Reflective Function (RF) in the treatment of young children and their families. RF supports the caregiver in managing emotions effectively so that he or she is better attuned to his or her own needs and can increase attentiveness to the child’s needs and physical and emotional safety.

Related Research Articles

Arria, A. M., Mericle, A. A., Rallo, D., Moe, J., White, W. L., Winters, K. C., & O’ Connor, G. (2013). Integration of parenting skills education and interventions in addiction treatment. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 7(1), 1-7. doi:10.1097/ADM.0b013e318270f7b0

Berger, L. M., & Font, S. A. (2015). The role of the family and family-centered programs and policies. The Future of Children, 155-176.

Brakenhoff, B., & Slesnick N. (2015). "The whole family suffered, so the whole family needs to recover": Thematic analysis of substance-abusing mothers’ family therapy sessions. Journal of Social Service Research, 41(2), 216-232.

Einbinder, S. D. (2010). A qualitative study of exodus graduates: Family-focused residential substance abuse treatment as an option for mothers to retain or regain custody and sobriety in Los Angeles, CA. Child Welfare, 89(4), 29-45.

Hanson, K. E., Saul, D. H., Vanderploeg, J. J., Painter, M., & Adnopoz, J. (2015). Family-based recovery: An innovative in-home substance abuse treatment model for families with young children. Child Welfare, 94(4), 161-183.

Sparks, S. N., Tisch, R., & Gardner, M. (2013). Family-centered interventions for substance abuse in Hispanic communities. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 12, 68-81, 2013. doi: 10.1080/15332640.2013.759785. From http://www.preventionpartnership.us/pdf/HispanicInPrint.pdf (accessed August 17, 2017).

Rowe, L. C. (2012). Family therapy for drug abuse: Review and updates 2003–2010. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38(1), 59-81. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2011.00280.x

Zweben, J. E., Moses, Y., Cohen, J. B., Price, G., Chapman, W., & Lamb, J. (2015). Enhancing family protective factors in residential treatment for substance use disorders. Child Welfare, 94(5e), 145.


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